Monday, October 4, 2010

Aster Season

The transition into autumn is traditionally associated with the ripening of seeds and fruits. There is one group of flowers, however that is just coming into its peak flowering period. Asters like this New England Aster, Aster novae-angliae, seem to ignore the threat of frost soon to come and choose to produce their blooms during the last warm days of the season.

With its violet and yellow blooms, this is probably the most noticeable of the asters. For some reason, it’s not very abundant at Blue Jay Barrens. New England Aster commonly inhabits abandoned cropfield habitat and I really expected to see more of it in my fields.

The Blue Jay Barrens population of New England Aster is found as single individual plants scattered around the more established prairies. These are healthy plants, but do not form the big bushy growth associated with deep soil fields.

Asters occur in every habitat available here, from the driest ridge tops to the wettest low ground. This is the Crooked Stem Aster, Aster prenanthoides, a species that grows along the creek bank. The majority of the Blue Jay Barrens specimens are a very pale lavender.

I really love the leaves on this plant. The flare of those sharply pointed teeth and the wide wings on the petiole make for a very showy display. I’d love to grow little specimens like this in a flower garden, but with even minimal care this species can grow to be several feet high.

The name comes from the fact that the stem bends slightly at each leaf node. Many of the fall asters have yet to open their flowers. I’ll see if I can post a roll call of Blue Jay Barrens asters during the peak bloom season.
Note: I just want to acknowledge that I’m aware that these plants are now assigned to the genus Symphyotrichum. I’m still using Gleason and Cronquist 1991 as my reference for scientific plant names and probably will never change.


  1. Yes, I love these little flowers, too. They come just at the right time when everything else is fading. Lovely images.

  2. HI Steve....they are a great addition to the otherwise dullness oof the fields this time of year!!
    They have been a large abundance of them here this year!!
    We have some that are pink, purple, white and a light blueish lavendar in big bushy plants!!
    Do you suppose the color has anything to do with the differnt soils!!

  3. Hi, Lois. Looking at the flowers always makes me believe that summer is going to stay around for a while longer. Listening to all the crickets chirping in the same field tells me that cold weather is not far away.

    Hi, grammie g. The color range for asters runs from white to dark lavender or purple. Some species show considerable variation, so can have different colors between individuals. There are also several species that look very similar, but have different colored flowers. I think genetics has more to do with the color than growing conditions.